'The Little Mermaid' comes to Hannah Community Center
The Disney musical The Little Mermaid was performed at the Hannah Community Center Jan. 17–19.
The adaptation was produced and directed by the Midway Theater Company for the East Lansing community. It was the second time Midway produced a musical for the community. Midway’s first production musical, "Seussical", was presented last year.
“It’s a new opportunity and theater group in the area, we were part of it right from the very beginning. It has been a wonderful atmosphere," Dawn Demerly, who had three daughters in the musical, said. "It has been done in a way that’s entirely positive. I am pretty particular about what my kids are involved in and I can’t say enough good things about being involved in Midway the last two years."
Shawna Wilder, one of the actresses in the theater group, said the costumers for the group generated their ideas from drawings the director gives them, then creates them from the existing or ready-made materials.
“They're hand-fit for each one of us, they take measurements. They fit us early on,” Wilder said. “Throughout the whole process as the character is developed, (the costumers) layer in what we need specifically. They've sewn in my slips because the fabrics are different. It’s not cookie cutter at all, it's very hand crafted and fitted."
A lot of costumes and props from the play came from Goodwill.
“Goodwill is our friend ... we do a lot of shopping there,” Midway Theater Company Manager and Producer Christy Duffy said.
Veronica Hetke directed the musical. It was her first time directing. She saw last year’s production of "Seussical," but did not take part. At that time, Midway was looking for the directors for next year, so they asked Hetke right after the first production.
"(Midway) came up the vision and they said "this is the show we would like to do, this is the amount of people we're looking to work with, these are our resources, so they find us and we help them to make their vision possible," Hetke said. "They have all the ideas, and then they hire the people that they think they can pull it together."
According to Hetke, The Little Mermaid crew rehearsed only once a week for five months.
“I am really proud of the cast. Really proud of them for pulling it all together and making it happen," she said. "There are dynamics of characters that really come to life once they have an audience to react to, and they can hear the audience laugh, and it makes them feel good about all that hard work they poured into it, they come to life. There are some things I'm watching them do where I'm like 'yes, that's what we've been wanting this whole year.'”
Duffy and her husband felt they needed to start the theater enterprise when their daughter decided to study art.
“She was a musical theater (student), and musical theater can be a really wonderful world, but also can also be really cutthroat, and really negative, and we wanted to provide a company where people who are talented in that way, have an encouraging environment to perform in," Duffy said. "That’s really the main reason we started this — we want to give people who are talented an encouraging place to perform, not only performers, but crew members: props people, costume people, the orchestra.
"We are trying to give people that have been particularly gifted an avenue to use those gifts where they feel like they're a real part of a team.”
According to Duffy, everyone in the casting group are volunteers and amateurs.
“The actors voluntarily auditioned for the roles, we don’t pay them,” Duffy said.
Duffy said the audition was rather competitive, and 50 of 95 people were finally selected to take part in the musical.
“We have some 10-year-olds in our cast and also have some (in their) late 60's," Duffy said. (mermaid 5,1.48) "We want to involve people. Our tickets are $12 to $15, we want to make it accessible to families, to families who have lots of kids.”
Recreating classic musicals and bringing them into the East Lansing community is also a way to create a platform for exchanging opportunities. Two actors in the musical, who play the role of Eric and Sabastian, are MSU students.
Duffy is also hoping to get involved with the Michigan State Theatre Department and provide internships.
“We would love to partner with MSU, both the performers and the backstage folks, that would be a big desire of ours.” Duffy said.